LINGUIST List 9.605

Fri Apr 24 1998

Sum: Dative Subjects in Slavic

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <>


  1. Elena Rudnitskaya, Dative Subjects in Slavic

Message 1: Dative Subjects in Slavic

Date: Wed, 22 Apr 1998 15:16:10 -0400 (EDT)
From: Elena Rudnitskaya <>
Subject: Dative Subjects in Slavic

I would like to thank James Kirchner, Lukasz Pielasa and Milos Rancic
for answering my questionnaire about Dative subjects in Slavic

The result of the questionnaire is the following. I wondered whether
there is such a correlation: if a language has Dative infinitive
subjects, it has Dative subjects with predicates meaning "necessary"
and "possible", and vice versa.

It appears that no strong correlation exists. The languages that
support this correlation are Russian, Serbo-Croatian and Slovak: in
the two first languages, both types of the subjects exist, whereas in
Slovak, neither of them exists. The languages that do not support
this correlation are Polish and Slovenian. In Polish, Dative subjects
are possible at least with predicates meaning "necessary", but
infinitive Dative subjects occur only marginally (and not in embedded
infinitives). In Slovenian, only the predicate "not necessary" can
take Dative subjects, but not the predicates "necessary" or
"possible". However, infinitive Dative subjects are possible in
Slovenian. Polish and Slovenian show that Dative subjects with modals
"possible" and "necessary" do not imply existence of Dative subjects
in infinitives, and the other way around.

To conclude, I cannot say that in all Slavic languages, the
correlation exists between existence of Dative infinitive subjects and
Dative subjects with modals "possible" and "necessary", even though
some languages do have such correlation.

If this correlation was valid across all Slavic languages, I would be
able to say that it is the null modal which assigns Dative to the

Dative subjects, as in (1):
(1) Ivan ne skazal, kogda Petru O[mod] ego vstrechat'
 John-NOM not told when Peter-DAT 0[mod] he-ACC to-see
"John did not say when Peter is supposed to see him" (at the airport)

I would say that the null modal 0[mod] is similar to matrix modals
"possible" and "necessary" in being able to assign Dative to its
object. However, the data so far do not allow me to say that.

If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me.

Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue